September 12, 2018
When he was Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger granted 15 pardons. Grey Davis granted none.
With four months left in office, Jerry Brown — California’s longest-serving governor — has granted more than 1,100 pardons.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy about that. Patricia Wenskunas of the Crime Survivors Resource Ceneter says that “The sad reality is, California is not a victim-friendly state. It’s an offender-friendly state.”
On the other hand, the vast majority of those being released have been nonviolent offenders, and Brown was prodded, at least in part, by a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that overcrowding in the state’s prisons amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. While sentencing reform has reduced the prison population by 25 percent, there are still about 115,000 locked up in the state’s 33 correctional facilities.
Says Brown, “There has been an overshoot in the time many people expect [criminals] to be locked up in a cage or cell.” In the 1970s, those convicted of first-degree murder tended to serve about a decade for their crimes; now it isn’t unusual for such sentences to span a half-century.
In fact, some 5,000 prisoners are serving life sentences without parole in California. And another 747 are on death row.